Keeping me off the streets

I’ve never quite understood that expression, but I kind of think that “on the streets” refers to those women who were once called ladies of easy virtue but who are now referred to, rather less glamorously, as sex workers. Anyway, whatever you call them, I certainly wouldn’t have the time.

I didn’t get round to undercoating and glossing the woodwork until today – but it’s done, and apart from a few little bits of touching up, one end of the dining room is complete. Unless the cat decides to rub herself up and down the wet gloss.

Monday was all prep and phone calls – long phone calls, some more welcome than others. Tuesday was a frustrating prison day. A meeting for Wednesday had to be changed at short notice, and, as always, these things take far more time in prison than elsewhere. But the Governor was delighted about the Koestler awards, and made a point of mentioning it at his morning meeting. My group worked really well, too. Two new guys started, and just got stuck into a session that involved a lot of writing and not so much chat. One of them is an able writer; the other has no conception of grammar or punctuation (tricky because we were working on dialogue) but a natural ear for speech and characterisation. Another priosner I work with was annoying, though; he wants to write his life story (which will not be that interesting), and is convinced that I want to steal it, write it up myself, and get all the credit and money when it’s published. They really have no idea; and they have little experience of meeting people who can be trusted absolutely. I guess it ‘s not their fault.

I was back in the prison on Wednesday, but didn’t stay overnight because I wanted to finish a book of poems written by a prisoner who was involved in nearly all the Koestler wins – and I did! He was so pleased to get the first printed copies the next day, and almost in tears when he knew about his Koestler awards.

But I almost lost my temper. No, that’s nto true; it’s almost unheard of for me to lose my temper; but I did get a bit cross, when it seemed that the rearranged meeting was going to have to be changed again. “I don’t know why I bother,” I said, rather unoriginally, and walked off. The meeting went ahead as planned, and we managed to make quite a lot of arrangements for the job share.

On Thursday I practised a bit for a gig in the evening, then went to a wash-up meeting for the schools songs project. We’re already starting to think about next year. Off to the hospital next. The new waiting room is open, and it’s miuch easier to work in – people seem far less anxious about being overheard when they talk to me.

The gig in the evening was at a new poetry cafe in Cheltenham – headline poet for their  first meeting! They were mostly serious poets, of mixed quality, and then I came on and did performance stuff. They seemed to enjoy it, and I sold some of my books, which is always pleasing. Home to more long phone calls.

Friday was a bit different – I went to Birmingham for an Arts Alliance conference. The Arts Alliance includes a number of organisation who work mainly in prisons; I couldn’t stay all day but took part in an interesting workshop run by the Geese theatre, who have been doing excellent work in prisons for years.

But I had far too much to do at home to stay for the rest of it – prep for a course I’m running on Monday. One of the other trainers has had a family bereavement, so I’m going to have to do her bits as well as mine. It will probably be a lot shorter than it would have been. I also started preparing for my new work, in a local doctors’ surgery, that starts next Friday; and mowed the fields. Lawns, I mean. And I collated lots of pieces written by my good prison group ready for checking and putting into a book. Oh. And I found I was double-booked for this coming Tuesday. This was partly, but certainly not completely my fault; as far as I was concerned, one of the arrangements was only pencilled in and not at all definite. Oh well. I’ve managed to get somebody else to stand in for me, and it will be ok.

And on Saturday I went to a party! A friend’s 40th. Obviously this meant a lot of time deciding what to wear (strappy black dress). It was fun, although I never feel quite at home at parties; I’m not sure what you are supposed to do. And it was in Bristol, and by the time I got home I was quite tired.

Today? I have buried the mole deterrent in the lawn (wretched things – three molehills already!); I have (I know, I’ve already said this) undercoated and glossed the woodwork; I have done more prep for the course tomorrow; I have arranged people to help on some work I have been asked to do (28 days! within a 6-week time period! Honestly, do people think I sit around and do nothing all the time, waiting to be offered work? They wouldn’t think that if they read my blog.) And I’ve arranged to go and help my son clean out the flat he has just left. Can’t wait. But, as they say, at least it will keep me off the streets, for another week.

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